Viva Javier Arana!
The golf courses of Javier Arana
Francisco Javier Arana died in 1975 at the age of seventy, but his Spanish golf course legacy endures to this day through the wonderful layouts that he created between 1946 and 1974.
He only ever constructed ten courses but no fewer than seven of these are ranked within our current Spanish Top 100 and two of them - El Saler and Club de Campo Villa de Madrid (Negro) - are listed in our European Top 100 chart.
“The golf courses of Javier Arana” has been written by Spanish golf historian and author Alfonso Erhardt Ybarra and it’s a beautifully crafted book, chronicling the life and golfing times of a little known architect who deserves far wider recognition.
The early chapters of the book take a look at Arana’s formative years, with the author drawing on a substantial archive of family-held photos, letters and other correspondence as he documents the amateur golfing prowess of the architect.
Arana claimed six national championships in Spain, France, Belgium and Portugal and won eight out of twelve international team matches during the period 1926-1943 so he played the game to a very high level, something that obviously stood him in good stead when design commissions came his way.
Towards the end of his amateur playing career, Javier was appointed National Officer for Golf Courses by the Royal Spanish Golf Federation, with a remit to help rebuild layouts damaged during the Spanish Civil War, and this post would lead to his short, but very instructive, partnership with Tom Simpson.
Arana’s design style has been described as rather simple: few bunkers and even fewer (if any) water hazards, doglegged fairways and angled greens that are often tiered or sloping in one direction. He liked to have the 17th hole as a par three and he’d leave the odd specimen tree isolated in one or more of the fairways – all very simple perhaps, but highly effective.
The closing chapters of the book cover the ten courses that bear the hallmarks of Javier’s distinctive design traits and we at Top 100 Golf Courses have now decided to update our coverage of the seven Arana courses that we feature by including edited extracts from the book as agreed with the author.
In the north of Spain, Javier redesigned the course at his home club, Neguri, near Bilbao and further inland, close to Pamplona, he laid out the original nine holes at Ulzama. In the heart of the capital in Madrid, he fashioned the highly acclaimed Negro course at Club de Campo.
To the south of the country, Arana was responsible for designing three of the new wave of golf courses on the Costa de Sol that would help turn that particular stretch of the Spanish coastline into the popular golfing destination that it is today: Guadalmina (Sur), Rio Real and Aloha.
Of course, his most celebrated layout is undoubtedly El Saler, to the south of Valencia on the Costa del Azahar, a course that’s currently ranked number 34 in our Continental Europe chart. It’s hard to imagine that this national golfing treasure has yet to be discovered by the large majority of golfers who jet into the country to play the game.
The book is lavishly illustrated with sketches, images and drawings from the Arana family’s portfolio of archive material, and it’s embellished with some stunning photography from Mario Llonch, who covered all nine of the Arana courses that still exist today (El Prat was relocated some time ago).
The pride and affection of the author for one of Spanish golf’s unsung heroes shines through on every page of this beautifully written book. In reading the story of Javier Arana, one can only hope that those tasked with the upkeep of his courses can maintain, preserve and nurture the efforts of a man who, in no small way, helped put Spain on the global golfing map.
“The golf courses of Javier Arana” is a highly recommended publication.
All images courtesy of Alfonso Erhardt Ybarra
20 February 2014 Respond to this article